July is Self-Care Month.
As a busy bride with a career or maybe school or kids, there are countless demands across all areas of life that require your energy and attention, meaning time for yourself can easily wind up squeezed out of your days. Add in wedding planning and prioritization of your well-being can forever feel like it’s out of reach.
Self-care, which is nurturing your mental, physical and emotional health, is a phrase and concept that most of us are familiar with now. Though the specifics of self-care look different for everyone, many find slowing down and checking in with themselves to be an important part of practicing it.
Giving yourself the space to take a breather—figuratively and literally—is vital to your wellness. Denise Leslie, a licensed massage therapist and the CEO/founder of Medical & Sports Massage in Metro Atlanta, says: “What happens is that we give our brain a chance to reboot. It improves our concentration, it increases our productivity, and it helps us discover or rediscover our own intentions.”
She says practicing mindfulness and deep breathing, even for as little as five or 10 minutes, can have a ripple effect of positivity throughout the body. “When we talk about the organs, everybody knows the heart, everybody knows the lungs, but we don’t talk about what’s happening with the spleen and the pancreas and the liver and the kidneys. And so, when we sit and breathe and slow down, it gives our entire organ system a chance to restore and reset,” Leslie says.
So, how exactly do you set aside time for yourself to practice slowing down and other forms of self-care? We offer advice for adjusting your mindset, schedule, and more, and provide ideas for what to do during your me-time.
A major concept behind making time for yourself is that you understand the importance of doing what is best for you, not what others say or project as being best. This is why you may first need to start by avoiding the trap of comparison.
Leslie says: “I think sometimes, as moms and brides, we want to compare, even comparing ourselves to our family members, our moms, our sisters, our aunts. That will drain your energy, and it’s hard to sink into your own intention and your own self, and your own purpose when you’re comparing. Accept yourself as you are, and don’t compare your life to anyone else’s because you’re on your own journey.”
Let Go of Guilt
In sync with eschewing comparison is banishing guilt. Leslie says, “When we’re so busy with day-to-day activities, life becomes overwhelming, and taking time for yourself seems impossible or selfish.” However, it’s important to remember that practicing self-care is everyone’s right, and it doesn’t have to be earned or only allowed when it enables you to then serve others (empty cups and oxygen masks may come to mind). It’s not something anyone should feel guilty about emphasizing in their life. “Self-care is essential and proven to reduce stress and fatigue,” Leslie says.
Don’t Let Your Budget Hold You Back
There’s no need to divert from your savings and investing goals or overall financial plan to love and care for yourself. Some of the activities people find most enriching can be done for free or affordably. Consider eating healthier foods. Turn on YouTube for some yoga classes or try meditation (be still) for 20 minutes. Try walking in your neighborhood or reading a good book. That all matters. That’s self-care.
Start and End Your Day With Time for Yourself
Finding time in the middle of the day to nourish your mind, body and spirit can be difficult. That’s why Leslie suggests bookending your days with me-time. She says waking up early before the hustle and bustle of the day is usually an easy way to add time for yourself and start your day on the right foot.
Ending your day with ease is equally important. Leslie says: “When we talk about stress and anxiety when our cortisol levels are high, our adrenals are working overtime, right? So daily slowing it down, especially in the evening before you go to bed, is critical in preventing disease in the body over time.”
Leslie notes that once we have allocated time for ourselves, we may not know what to do with it. We’ve been so caught up in everyday responsibilities that we no longer realize what genuinely makes us happy and brings us joy. To help remedy this, she proposes documenting in a journal or even a notes or calendar app on your phone activities or experiences that bring you joy each day and looking back at that information when considering what to do during your me-time.
In addition to finding the small things you like to do for self-care, Leslie says it’s important to find your “biggie.” She lists massage therapy, professional hair and nail care, reflexology, and nature exploration as examples.
Amelia Pleasant Kennedy, clutter coach, professional organizer, and owner of A Pleasant Solution in Birmingham, Michigan, also suggests asking yourself what you want. She says: “Self-care is defined as giving yourself a chance to desire and want something for yourself. It may be saying yes to something new or different, or responding with a respectful no to something you have little desire in participating in.” Some self-care activities she recommends include pursuing whatever feels best to you right then and not planning a specific activity beforehand for the time you’ve given yourself. “Decide in the moment what lights you up or excites you,” Kennedy says. Think about what you may need more of, specifically sleep and time in the sun. “We underestimate how refreshed we’ll feel going to bed an hour earlier or popping outside for a vitamin D break,” she says. Consider using your me-time in the evening to catch up on sleep, or in the morning move your quiet time or exercise outside. Embrace positive productivity from time to time. “Spend an hour or two tidying up your closet, office, or favorite living space,” Kennedy says. “Self-care includes decluttering the items that are draining your energy and attention. Turn on some music, open the windows and freshen up your home.”
As those who’ve developed a long-standing workout routine will tell you, you’ll have to cherish the time you’ve set aside to care for yourself and protect it from encroachment.
Leslie says don’t be afraid to discuss your needs and point of view with your partner, family, friends, and coworkers. She also says that when you are clear about your boundaries and set the precedent, it’s likely you won’t encounter resistance and that people who care about you will often find ways to support you and your time for self-care. “As you become balanced, renewed, and lower your stress, it will show in your tone of voice, in your skin tone, and in the way you respond to triggers and stress,” she says.
You may be worried about how you’re going to make progress on a project like wedding planning while carving out time for yourself. Boundaries also come into play here and make both outcomes possible. Kennedy says: “Block off time in advance throughout the length of the project and communicate that time off to those in your circle. Think of rest as work. It’s a nonnegotiable commitment to yourself that requires no explanation.”
Kennedy also offers the following advice for making wedding planning progress without burning yourself out.
- Take a moment to list out all the expected tasks for the wedding. Getting your entire list of ideas out onto paper will help you see the expectations you’re setting for yourself. Identify your deadline, then work backward to schedule several mini deadlines by which you’d like tasks to be completed. Know that these mini-deadlines are equally important as the final one, so treat them like there’s a consequence attached.
- Dedicate specific, uninterrupted blocks of time to work on your wedding. Whether you have 30 minutes or half a day, setting aside time to focus on making decisions and taking action will help you experience steady progress. She suggests turning off notifications, staying present for yourself, and celebrating what’s ahead.
- Delegate more than you think necessary. Here is where a wedding planner shines. If you are planning on your own, assemble a trusted and reliable team and outsource the smaller tasks of making appointments and communicating with vendors. “Save your strength for making the executive decisions that take mental clarity,” explains Kennedy.
Remember, there is only one of you, and it’s up to you to take care of yourself. Even the smallest actions can have a dramatic impact, so start now and focus on progress, not perfection.